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California Culinary Academy

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
Hello everyone -

I was wondering if anyone in this forum had been through the Pastry Arts program at the California Culinary Academy. I will be attending in May and was looking for some "real life" advice, tips, what to expect and so on (about your time there and after you graduated also).

Any help you could give me would be greatly appreciated. I am very excited about going, but know nobody who has been through the program with the intention of working as a pastry chef afterwards (only know one person who did it as a hobby!)

thanks much!
post #2 of 22
I just happenned on your post and see that you must be at CCA now. So how is it going? What do you think of the program? I went for the interview/tour last week and I had mixed feelings. Would love to get an insider's feedback.
post #3 of 22
Thread Starter 

life at cca

yes i'm at cca now. and here's the insider's scoop :rolleyes:

i really like the chef instructers here -- they are all extremely knowledgeable and helpful. i have learned so much and so many things i didn't know i didn't know. the education i am getting is well worth it, i think.

but of course, there are a few things i don't like. the admissions to get into this school are nonexistent - if you have the money or can get the financial aid you can get into this school. this of course means that a large proportion of the students have no real world experience and some are just here because they have nothing better to do. it can make things stressful at times because not everyone has the same level of devotion to the class and doing well. of course, you would probably find this is just about any other school too.

the class sizes here are too big -- when i interviewed here they said the classes wouldn't be more than 20 students -- my class has 28 -- very tight spaces and running into people all the time. i hope they are telling the students the small class size anymore because its a lie.

what else ... the school is not in the best part of town, although you know that if you've visited. don't live in the dorms if you can avoid it.

other than those issues, i really am enjoying school. i am working my but off in breads class right now -- it's a production kitchen and it runs you ragged, which is great experience for the real world. as i said before i have no complaints about the instuctors, in fact i think they're what make this school great.

and also, i love being in san francisco, but that's an east coast girl talking, not everyone likes this area as much as i do.

do you have anything in specific you'd like to know. i'm just writing what i can think of right now. let me know. i'd love to be of some help as you make your decision where to go.

hope that helps

post #4 of 22
You brought up some of my very concerns. When I went on the tour; much of it was spent giving me the standard blah, blah, blah. And while I appreciate that I am trying to figure out if the program is right for me.

I am very concerned about class size. The kitchens that I visited did seem over crowded. I asked my guide and she said that they are aware of the issue and will be adding more classes due to increased demand. I met with an Instructor and he seemed very knowledgeable and approachable, but with the larger class sizes do you get to interact with them much?

I was also concerned with the varied levels of experience of students. I was surprised that there really are no prerequistes for the program. I am concerned that the classes will move more slowly in order to accomodate all levels.

I also feel that the ROI is skewed. I know that it is a good program, but the $$$ you make once you leave seems to be rather low. Do you get the sense that they REALLY help you get placements after graduating?

What other schools did you check out in the area. Why did you choose CCA?

Thanks for the info. Sorry for all the ???. I appreciate you time. I hope you are enjoying it so far.
post #5 of 22
I think it is the downside of big culinary schools it is about them making money. CCA is now part of LCB I think between LCB and The Art Institutes they will own every school in the country in 10 years. I feel sorry for the Chef instructors it must be hard trying to instill quality in such an enviroment.
post #6 of 22
That's how I feel.

Because I am a newbie and wish to make the right kind of start, I feel somewhat compelled to go to a "name" school. But I am also trying to be practical. I am a new Stay-at-Home Mom and now I have the opportunity to follow my passion, but because I am embarking on this career change later in life, I feel like I should jump start myself so not to lose anymore time.

I have been lucky enough to find people who are willing to have me apprentice with them before I decide about school, but the question still lingers...should I go to school and if so where?
post #7 of 22
Thread Starter 
wannabake - are you interested in the aos (associate degree) program or baking & pastry program? I am in the baking & pastry program and I think it is one of the best in the country -- but there are not a lot of just baking & pastry programs in this country to choose from. For the 9 mo that i am in school and for what i am learning and the fast pace i am learning at - it's an awesome program. Very few other schools could offer me this. I am very happy with the education i am getting because I am learning so much and at a very fast pace so it is challanging too.

If you are interested in an associates degree or even bachelors, i would definitly look elsewhere. there are no prereqs to get into the aos program here and a lot of the aos students are here because they couldn't get in anywhere else. i definitly think there are better aos programs at other schools, although i have never specifically looked into them because that's not what i was interested in.

As far as students of all levels in a classroom, all schools i think will have that. there are such a wide variety of experiences in my class and ages also, but the rate of the class doesn't change -if you can't keep up, you better learn how to and i can almost guarantee the class doesn't go too slow for anyone. they cram a lot in --- we are in class 8hrs/day, 5 days/wk.

the classroom size is a cause for concern but i have never felt that a chef instructor doesn't have time for me or anything. if anything i feel bad for them because sometimes they run around like crazy answering all our questions and helping everyone. but i will reiterate what i said before -- the instuctors at this school are fabulous. they always make time for any help you need. if you need special attention, all you have to do is ask, and it will happen. sometimes i don't know how they do it, but they are always there for you. in the class i have now, we have a chef instructor and an associate chef instructor who assists, so the school is trying to make accomodations for large classes by giving us two instuctors. it's just hard to maneuver around a kitchen with 26 other students in it.

i hope this answered your questions. if not, let me know and i'll try to elaborate. choosing a school is tough because it's a huge output on $$. i am happy with my choice and i'm happy with the education i am getting. i just wish i could make a few minor adjustments.


ps i think my roi will be fine. i know i won't be making a lot of money the first year or two after i graduate, but once i gain the necessary experience and i have the education to back me, the $$$ should follow
post #8 of 22
I am interested in Baking and Pastry. Thanks for all of the info. It is nice to get an insider's perspective. It sounds like you are really enjoying your time in school. I think I will take another tour and hopefully get a bit more time to speak with some instructors you make them sound very impressive.
post #9 of 22
I too have checked out the baking and pastry courses at several schools and feel that the program at CIA Greystone in Napa is way better. Here's what I've seen when I have gone there for cooking classes:

[*]There is only 20 or 30 students in the whole program.[*]There is 3 or 4 instructors for those people. [*]Cost of living in Napa (or nearby Santa Rosa) is definately cheaper than San Francisco.[*]The instructors or pretty open minded, and have much more experience (some even worked at CCA)[/list]
There's more if you want me to add, but I think you get the picture. I have hired and worked with many graduates of CCA and would NOT recommend it to any one!

Sorry if this makes someone mad, it is ONLY my opinion.
My wife woke me last night; I screamed at the top of my lungs "How many times do I have to tell you:

Posh Nosh Restaurant "Casual Gourmet"
My wife woke me last night; I screamed at the top of my lungs "How many times do I have to tell you:

Posh Nosh Restaurant "Casual Gourmet"
post #10 of 22
Opinions are good.

Dunk...Is Chef Jake, Chef Nick, Chef Devon still there? Who's your bread Chef? I had the pleasure of having Chef Peter Rhinehart (Crust & Crumb) back then.
What class are you in now?

I was in before the major take-over. And the schedules have changes, I heard. The classes are 7 weeks instead of 5 weeks. Is that right?

Brings back memories.
post #11 of 22
Thread Starter 
chef jake, chef devon and chef nick are all still here. i had chef jake for cakes class and will have both chef nick and chef devon later on in other classes. my breads instructor is chef mike. he's been here about 5 yrs so it may be after you left. he's great -- very knowledgeable and passionate about what he does.

our classes are now 6wks long each and they added human resource management and cost control to our schedule.

as far as the b&p program at cia napa, i've haven't heard very many good thing about it -- it's a pretty new program, right? i heard it's more expensive than cca's program and not as intensive. but, that's only hearsay, i have never been there or looked into their program at all. just some of the students in my class did and they chose cca over cia napa.

chefclaycollins - i'm wondering if the cca graduates you hired were aos students or b&p. i always hear negative stuff about cca graduates, but then hear that it's the aos students (which is why i recommened to wannabake not to come here if she was looking for an aos program). i actually haven't heard much about what potential employers thought of cca b&p graduates. i'm very curious to know, obviously since i will soon be one! i would love to hear your opinion because whatever it is, you probably aren't the only one to share it and its something i should be ready for.

as for me though, i hope that when i apply places i don't get rejected just because cca is on my resume -- i would hope they would realize that every student is different -- some are good, some are bad and that they would give me a chance to prove myself. that's all i'm looking for - to get my foot in the door and be given an opportunity to work my butt off and bake and see where it takes me.

post #12 of 22
I am so confused. I want to go to school for B & P because I love it, but also to give me a step up when I try to get a job. I don't want to have to prove to future employers that they should hire me in spite of the fact I chose to go to CCA. I would hope that it would give me a leg up not a hole to crawl out of. Maybe I am reading to much into this or just freaking out. Dunk...it sounds like your classmates feel like CCA was a BETTER choice than CIA Napa, but you sound a little unsure. Why? :confused:

post #13 of 22
I would say that I wouldn't not hire some one based on the fact that they went to CCA, I just wouldn't hire them based solely on the fact. When I hire people know I make them come into my kitchen for a day and shadow someone (not me!), because I feel that being around a perspective employee for more than a few minutes is the only way to really get to know some one.

I think that schooling only gets you so far then YOU gets you the rest of the way.

And yes all the people that I've worked with were AOS students. I hope that you get the most of your education, and most of all do something productive with it. You sound like a good person with morals and no ego, remember that will take you far in this industry. Most of all learn from people in SF then move up here and start a good bakery, this place is ACHING for it and I'm only 3 hours away!
My wife woke me last night; I screamed at the top of my lungs "How many times do I have to tell you:

Posh Nosh Restaurant "Casual Gourmet"
My wife woke me last night; I screamed at the top of my lungs "How many times do I have to tell you:

Posh Nosh Restaurant "Casual Gourmet"
post #14 of 22
Thanks...I needed to hear that. My sole reason for going to school is to get training so I can be competitive when searching for a job. I am still in the preliminary stages of investigating schools so the more info the better. I had heard from several people including all of you that the AOS program at CCA wasn't as reputable as others. But it does sound like B & P is a good program.

I am excited to report that I have just about secured an apprentice position (keep your fingers crossed). I have 2 to choose from. People in the industry have been so warm and welcoming; I am so excited for this new endeavor.

CCC I will be sure to make my way to your neck of the woods once I am ready to start my own spot.

Take care!
post #15 of 22
Thread Starter 
hmmm - that's kind of funny, i was planning on staying in sf after i graduate. i think this is a great place to get a start and learn the ropes. but after that i don't know what i'll be doing - just see where the wind takes me...maybe nevada city, although i have no idea where that is...i'm still really new to california and haven't had a chance to venture outside of sf yet.

wannabake -- the only reason i sound unsure about cia napa is because i myself have never looked into it so i really have no idea about it at all. i don't want you to make your decision about cia based on me and my hearsay -- go check it out!

ok, have to get back to the dough:) making sourdough starter today and some pane de campagne (french country bread). mmmmm, bread.

post #16 of 22

I will check out CIA although I am pretty commited to staying in SF and think that if I tried to commute I might fall apart or certainly my family might.

SF is a great city and there seems to be a lot of opportunities here so you should do very well here. Like I said before, I have talked with a number of people and they have been so supportive and nice. Even little-o-me without any formal training has been able to get hooked up. :)

So you with your training should be able to find a great job. Even though the economy is down it seems like they are still hiring in this industry.

Thanks a lot for your info about CCA. I appreciate your insight. Perhaps you can let me know how you do in the job market. What people have to say about your training. How it helped, if it ever hurt and so on. Good luck with your job hunt and thanks again.

post #17 of 22
When I went to the CCA. I was told that CCA meant "Can't Cook Anything" Ha, Ha. I didn't listen.

Wannabake..... I thought it was a great program, B&P. Plus you live in one of the most exciting cities to dine in. Your backyard. Go check it out.
School is your foundation, Then it's up to you to do something with it. The only negative I think I had about it, was it is a for profit school. Too much to explain......

Dunk..... Does the school have any alumni news to look at? To see what they are doing now? I was going to send Chef Jake a recent magazine that my cakes appeared in. So, he can brag that I was a student of his. He was such a character. Does he still say "spa-tula"? I don't think he'll remember me. But, I know he'll remember my cake that was displayed in the cake display case. Do they still have the cake display case at the entrance of the school? That was my motivation everyday. Looking at that case. Dunk, I am visiting the city next week. Actually going to the wine country. Hopefully I can get over to the city. And when I do, I always try to go visit the school and the Chefs, especially Chef Nick. All the ladies had a crush on him. Chef Devon is a trip. Everyone feared her class. Beautiful lady, when she takes down her hair from that chef hat, and those glasses. So, maybe I'll peek into your bread class. Is it still on the second floor? Hmmm, I can smell the bread now.
post #18 of 22


I have been playing with the idea of going to culinary school because I am tired of what I do presently and the only true passion I have at the moment is FOOD!

I live in the Bay Area and I went to the CCA for a tour, etc. I was happy to read all of your posts because I was afraid that I was the only one who felt as if the school tries to sell itself way too hard. The woman I met with wasn't a very good listener and she jumped at any opportunity to say that the school was one of the best in this, or one of the best in that, etc.

I would be interested in the cordon bleu aos degree, which sounds absolutely amazing. However, it costs $40,000!! That is just unbelievable to me!! From everyone's posts, it sounds like the program isn't really worth it. Could anyone give me more specifics?

Is it true that the class sizes are too big? And is it true that the quality of students varies way too much?

What I am really interested in knowing is what happens during the 3-month externship and what happens after you graduate? Is it really and truly typical to get placed at a top restuarant for your externship, or is that typical only for top students in the class? The woman I met with made it sound like it would be easy to be placed ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD for your externship. And what can a typical graduate from the CCA expect as a first job? Do you chop veggies for 6 years straight? That sounds no different than what a graduate from a different culinary school would do. Or, is the difference that you would be chopping veggies at a top restuarant versus a mediocre restaurant?

Sorry for all the questions, but I am trying to make sense of the $40,000? Does the $40,000 pay for a name that gets graduates somewhere special, or not necessarily?

Any feedback would be greatly appreciated!! Thanks so much!
Have a great day!
post #19 of 22

1st off welcome to CT!!

Now where are you located? Unless that has nothing to do with your school decision. What price range are you looking for? Do you have any other degrees? In what?

I have a "mentor" who is a CCA graduate and she kicks major culo!!! I think she's fantastic!! If you have any questions let me know and I'll ask her.

Also feel free to email me.

Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.
Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 - 1860)

Mankind Enjoying Animal Tastiness
Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.
Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 - 1860)

Mankind Enjoying Animal Tastiness
post #20 of 22
Also, $40k is the going price for a culinary education at a culinary school. Yes community college is cheaper. As far as what externship is like I can only imagine. But I would say the greatest asset you have in securing the best possible externship is YOU. You drive, determination and talent are what opens (or shuts) doors for you. I know of maybe two chefs that would pick students based on where they received their training. One wouldn't hire ANYONE out of cooking school. She said no matter where they went they'd be too cocky. For the most part I can agree but her statement is too stereotypical. Schools along the lines of NECI, J&W and CIA are running $50k. Save up some money to go too if you decide, 'cause financial aid ain't gonna pay it all (tuition). Nevertheless $40k is still a lotta money. Unless you absolutely have your heart set on one school, it would be in your best interest to do some research and check out other culinary institutions.
Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.
Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 - 1860)

Mankind Enjoying Animal Tastiness
Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.
Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 - 1860)

Mankind Enjoying Animal Tastiness
post #21 of 22
Thread Starter 


Spoons - I just about fell off my chair laughing! Yes, Chef Jake still says spa-tula and as a result so does everyone in my class. After hearing him say that for 6 weeks straight, it's ingrained. What can I say!? Did you get a chance to visit the school? I have no idea about alumni news or anything.

Anyways, I just wanted to tell you about my most recent experiences here at CCA. First the great news -- if you are planning on going to CCA and staying in the area after you graduate -- there are a lot of alumni around here. I was really nervous about my job situation and possibilities so I volunteered at several different events to see if I could do some networking(a great tool which I highly recommend -- just one or two saturdays at a culinary event or function works wonders!). Anyways, at the last one I did, I met a lady who graduated from here and was looking for a pastry assitant in her new restaurant and she asked me it i'd be interested ---YES! Anyways, I did a try-out there last Sat. & it went well and she wants me to work there on Saturdays until I graduate and then possibly go full time. I'm very excited, and even if the full-time thing doesn't work out, I am getting some great experience.

Now, for the bad days at CCA --- I know I've said it before, but I have to say it again -- Don't live in the Dorms!!! Our elevator was broken for a month, they fixed it, it worked for a week, now it's broken again (I know, great exercise, right :rolleyes: ). And, to make matter even more fun, the sewer pipes burst in our basement (for the second time) and that's where the laundry room is. What a pain in the butt!!

post #22 of 22

CCA is a for-profit school


Hello Dunk,
I just wanted to give my opinion on this matter. I was going to attend the CCA because I live here but after researching and visiting other schools I decided not to. First off, the tuition goes up every year and for what the program gives you you are better off going to the CIA for Baking and Pastry. I saw the school in Napa and it is awesome! They are constantly adding new programs and expanding their continuing education...this says alot about a school in my eyes. The CCA is always a hard sell and they have too many stupid commercials...which tells you they spend way too much in marketing!! As a prospective student, I can tell you that it is definitely a mark against them. I can also tell you that from working in the hospitality industry...the CCA grads give themselves a bad reputation in SF. Be humble upon graduating and prepared to continually learn and you will do fine. I, myself, will be attending the CIA in Hyde Park next month and can't wait. Proving yourself after graduating is the key to a successful career and working during school doing catering is a good start.

Best of luck,

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